Shared from the 10/21/2018 Idaho Statesman eEdition

Trump memo pushes water projects



An irrigation canal stands dry on the Klamath Reclamation Project near Klamath Falls, Ore., in 2010.

President Donald Trump ordered the government Friday to speed up environmental reviews and streamline regulations that he claims are hindering work on major water projects in California and other Western states.

Trump signed a memorandum aimed at helping the Central Valley Project and the California State Water Project in California, the Klamath Irrigation Project in Oregon and California, and the Columbia River Basin system in the Pacific Northwest.

“We will resolve the issues blocking the completion of the Central Valley project,” Trump said in Arizona during a swing through Western states. “I hope you enjoy the water that you’re going to have.”

The Central Valley Project is a federally managed water storage and delivery system that primarily benefits agricultural users in California’s rich farming country in the center of the state.

The State Water Project serves agricultural and urban water users, including Los Angeles and much of sprawling Southern California.

The announcement is a boost for Republican lawmakers in California’s Central Valley facing challenges from Democrats looking to take control of the U.S. House. Trump signed the memo alongside Central Valley GOP Reps. Kevin McCarthy, Devin Nunes and Jeff Denham.

But it is likely to inflame the battle in California over divvying up water among cities, farms and environmental needs such as the protection of fish.

Farming interests have long pushed to raise Shasta Dam, which holds back California’s largest reservoir as part of the Central Valley Project, by more than 18 feet. The project is opposed by environmentalists who say it would harm threatened fish species and by the Winnemem Wintu tribe, which says it would flood sacred sites.

Several other proposed dams include Sites Reservoir near Sacramento and Temperance Flat Dam north of Fresno.

A state water board has proposed increasing the amount of water allowed to flow through the Lower San Joaquin River and its tributaries to protect habitat for fish in the delta. The proposal, which is up for consideration next month, has sparked protests from farmers and Central Valley politicians from both parties who call it a “water grab.” State officials say the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta east of the San Francisco Bay is an ecosystem in crisis.

“This order stems from ignorance and election year pandering to wealthy Central Valley agribusiness interests,” said John Buse, legal director with the Center for Biological Diversity.

Buse said Trump has no clue about complex water issues and ignores the need to protect the environment as well as farming and cities.

“Trump’s view that water is wasted if not used by agriculture or urban users is just idiotic,” he said.

Among other things, Trump’s memorandum orders separate federal agencies to consolidate their environmental reviews of California water projects and the Klamath Irrigation Project.

“From our standpoint, it’s really encouraging, and we feel like we’re being listened to,” said Dan Keppen, executive director of the Family Farm Alliance in Klamath, Oregon.

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